Why to Laugh at Getting Old

Barbara Greenleaf’s New Book The Old Body Brings Humor to Aging

Barbara Greenleaf at her home in Santa Barbara. | Credit: Paul Wellman

After a career as an entrepreneur, author of seven “serious” books, New York Times staffer, and organizer of Santa Barbara’s Jewish Film Festival, Barbara Greenleaf keeps taking creative turns into her mid-70s. She just published a book called This Old Body: And 99 Other Reasons to Laugh at Life, and tells us a little about why.

What inspired you to write this book?  One day I noticed that all of my parts were falling apart. Aliens from Mars had captured my arms and inserted jiggles in them, miniscule construction workers had gotten got inside my eyelids and made them droop like wilted lettuce, and someone had hung a “Vacancy” sign where my brain used to reside. The only way I could fight back was by making fun of these frightening developments. I jotted them down, read them aloud, everyone laughed — and This Old Body was born.

Barbara Greenleaf’s ‘This Old Body: And 99 Other Reasons to Laugh at Life’

Why is humor so important as people age?   If nothing else, it’s good for your health. Laughter releases all those feel-good endorphins. I read that people who laugh a lot have 66 percent less inflammation than those with no sense of humor. It’s also good for your looks — laugh lines are so much more attractive than frown lines. Finally, instead of bemoaning the betrayals, humiliations, and everyday aggravations that come with the passing years — and aging ain’t for sissies, as we know — you might as well make up your mind to treat them with the humorous disdain they deserve. It puts you in charge.

What are some funny anecdotes?  As I recount in, “Hair: The Reality not the Musical,” one night my husband took a look at my scalp as I bent down to cut into a lamb chop and he blurted out, “My God, you have a bald spot!” When he saw my stricken look, he quickly said, “Not to worry, it’s only a small one; no one will notice,” and the makers of Rogaine for Women have been grateful ever since.

Recently, too, at my annual physical, I did that calculation peculiar to middle-aged women: Take off your shoes and weigh a half pound less or put them on and be a half inch taller. I put them on, fluffed up my hair, and practiced my very best posture — yet still I had shrunk a stunning one-and-a-half inches. I’m now applying to the Little People of America, since it’s clear where this is going.

Who should read this book?  Any man or woman over 50 who still has enough breath to fog a mirror and/or needs a chiropractor, massage therapist, dermatologist, Pilates instructor, nutritionist, physical therapist, and orthopedist to prop up their old body.

This Old Body: And 99 Other Reasons to Laugh at Life is available at Chaucer’s, Tecolote, Amazon, and Kindle. 


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